ROUND ROCK, Texas - As more and more Central Texas school districts begin a new year, safety and security is top of mind for many parents, students and teachers—especially in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting.
For Round Rock ISD, where the first day is Wednesday, that means addressing both physical building security, as well as mental health and threat assessment.
"Safety and security is on everybody’s mind, now more than ever," said Round Rock ISD Superintendent Dr. Hafedh Azaiez at a July 28 Board of Trustees meeting.
Following the Robb Elementary shooting, Round Rock ISD Police say they have completed all the steps required by the Texas Education Agency—including targeted safety audits, exterior door checks, a review of emergency and active threat plans, staff training on safety procedures and reviewing building access procedures.
"All of our buildings lock from the outside," said Dr. Daniel Presley, Round Rock ISD’s Chief of Schools & Innovation at that same meeting. "All of our classroom interior doors are lockable. When school starts, I want every classroom door in this district closed and locked."
Classroom doors are also being upgraded so they lock from the inside. Meanwhile, the district is discussing mandating badges for students—and is cracking down on who goes inside school buildings.
"All of our campuses have safe and secure entrances that have cameras and microphones," said Presley.
Also new is improvements to windows, in case of an active shooter. "All of the front of our buildings, the glass has bullet resistant glass that would slow down a perpetrator who’s trying to come in," said Presley.
But district officials have stopped short of measures like clear backpacks or metal detectors. "I have real concerns about the hardening of schools," said Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees Vice President Tiffanie Harrison at the July 28 meeting.
A big piece of the safety puzzle for Round Rock is mental health. The district is utilizing new technology for threat assessment, including anonymous reporting and monitoring social media.
"If there is a threat to others, it automatically goes into our threat assessment protocols which is all digitized for principals or assistant principals," said Dr. Amy Grosso, Round Rock ISD’s Director of Behavioral Health, at the meeting.
The district has 150 school counselors—whose roles include not only crisis intervention but prevention.
"In looking in not just academically, but looking at students that maybe are absent, students that behavior has changed. Those are things that are really important and key," said Grosso.
"Safety is not a destination, it’s a journey," said Spencer Coursen, president of Austin-based Coursen Security Group and author of "The Safety Trap: A Security Expert’s Secrets for Staying Safe in a Dangerous World".
"It’s all about totality of circumstance," said Coursen. "That system plus protective intelligence, plus helping those who are hurting plus having effective emergency response plans is really the goal in mind"
Coursen says parents and students need to take an active role in speaking up if something seems off. "My advice is if you have to think about it two or three times, that’s something you should definitely tell someone," he said.
The Round Rock ISD Police Department has 31 officer positions. Right now, six are vacant, but they’re hoping to fill those as soon as possible.